Many patients find it challenging to speak with their physicians and ask questions. Case managers can serve as a go-between for patients and as an interpreter, teaching patients how to make the most of these doctor-patient encounters.

Before a scheduled doctor’s visit, case managers can help patients figure out how to talk about their health concerns in a way the physician will hear them and help find solutions, says Cheryl Acres, RN, CCM, CDP, owner of Comprehensive Care Management, LLC, in Dallas.

The patient might have only a minute or less to get the doctor’s attention as they describe their symptoms. Patients need to know how to cut to the most important information.

“Say, ‘Here’s my problem. It started like this,’” Acres says. “Describe symptoms, saying, ‘It’s affecting my sleep, and I’ve tried ice, heat, taken pain pills, gone to the chiropractor,’ and tell them what you’ve done and whether or not it worked or partly worked.”

Acres also lists these tips:

  • Make a list of issues, including symptoms and changes — both good and bad;
  • Bring a current list of prescriptions and over-the-counter medications;
  • Write questions in advance and bring these to the appointment;
  • Ask physicians for their thoughts on the problem;
  • Ask how the patient and doctor can improve, fix, and/or prevent the problem;
  • Ask what will happen next if the suggested treatment does not work;
  • Ask for the physician’s input on trying therapies, diet, exercise, massage therapy, acupuncture, and other methods;
  • Find out if any clinical trial options or new medications are available;
  • Take an advocate to the appointment;
  • Consider addressing long-term needs, quality of life, and advance directives.